Everyone experiences stress, but it is alarming that 70% of US adults say that they either feel stress or anxiety on a daily basis. Here are some simple ways to relieve your stress.
Exercise is probably the best thing you can do to reduce stress. Ironically, when you put physical stress on your body, you relieve mental stress. Exercising lowers your body’s stress hormones in the long run by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkilers. Exercising also helps to improve your overall sleep quality and boost your confidence.
2) Light A Candle
Burning a candle or using essential oils can help to reduce feelings of stress. Some scents are known to be stress relieving, such as: lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, chamomile, neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, ylang ylang, orange, and geranium. When you use scents to treat your mood, it is referred to as aromatherapy.
3) Reduce Caffeine
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Because it is a stimulant, high doses are shown to increase anxiety. Everyone has different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you find that it makes you jittery, it’s probably a good idea to reduce your intake. Coffee can be healthy in moderation, but it does not mean that it is for everyone.
4) Chew Gum
People who chew gum generally report having a greater sense of wellbeing and reduced stress. This could be because when we chew gum, it causes brain waves similar to being in a relaxed state. Chewing gum also promotes healthy blood flow to your brain. It is found that the stronger you chew your gum, the greater stress relief effects it has (sorry to the person sitting next to you!).
5) Spend Time With Others
Family and friends who offer support may be able to help get you through a stressful time. When you are a part of a network that gives you a sense of belonging, you experience higher levels of self-worth. When you spend time with positive people, you release more oxytocin, which is a natural stress reliever. It has also been shown that those with few social connections are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. (link to study)
It is more difficult to feel stressed while you are laughing. Not only is laughing good for your health, but it relieves tension by relaxing your muscles. In the long term, you may have an improved immune system and lighter mood. One study (link here) found that people with cancer experienced more stress relief while they were in the laughter intervention group versus those who were simply distracted. Try to watch a funny video or spend time with someone who makes you laugh.
7) Say No
You can’t control everything that brings you stress, but you can control some things. Try to take control back of the parts of your life that you can. One way to do this is to say no to people more often. If you find yourself taking on more than you can or want to handle, be more selective about what you say yes to, especially if it will add to your stress load. This may be difficult at first, but will eventually reduce your stress levels.
8) Don’t Procrastinate
When you stay on top of your priorities and avoid procrastination, you will find your stress levels lowered. Procrastination may have you stressed about what you need to do and leave you scrambling to catch up with everything. This can ultimately cause stress, which can negatively effect your health. If you find this happening to you frequently, try making a to-do list with the most important things at the top. Sometimes you have to give yourself more realistic time lines to get everything done.
9) Do Yoga
Yoga is a popular way to reduce stress and get more exercise in. The goal of yoga is to join your body and mind. It does this by increasing awareness to your body, thoughts, and breath. Research (link here) shows that yoga can enhance mood and, in some cases, be just as effective as antidepressant drugs when it comes to treating depression and anxiety. In general, it seems that the benefits of yoga on stress is related to the effect it has on your nervous system and overall stress response. It helps to lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. It also increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders.
10) Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that aims to keep you in the present moment. This can help to combat negative thinking, which is a big culprit of stress and anxiety. When you are highly stressed, you are likely running around from task to task, whether physically or mentally. Taking the time to think about where you are is a simple way to stay present. Try thinking of one thing you can feel, hear, see, taste, and smell. A study of college students (link here) showed that mindfulness helped increase self-esteem, which in turn, lessened symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Human beings like to experience physical contact. Any positive physical contact can help release oxytocin, boost our immune system, relieve pain, and lower cortisol. This helps to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, which are both physical symptoms of stress. In general, positive physical contact can make us happier, less anxious, and re-affirms bonds within relationships.
12) Listen To Soothing Music
Listening to soothing music has relaxing effects on the body. When you listen to slow-paced instrumental music, you induce the relaxation response by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. Nature sounds can also very calming and are generally incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
13) Deep Breathing
When you become too stressed, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which activates your sympathetic nervous system. During this reaction, your stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms, such as a fast heartbeat, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels. Deep breathing exercises can help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response. The goal of breathing exercises is to simply focus on the awareness of your breath, making it slower and deeper. This will help to slow your heart rate and allow you to feel more peaceful overall.
14) Spend Time With Your Pet
Interacting with pets may help reduce stress and improve mood by releasing oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood. Having a pet can also help to relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active, and providing companionship. All of these things are shown to reduce anxiety.
Stress will always be a part of your life - it is a natural response to events. Just remember that there are always simple ways to reduce your stress levels. Aim to get your mind away from the source of stress and focus on lowering your stress response. If you need more than these tips, click here to work with a therapist who can help you get to the root of your stress to relieve these responses.